Author Topic: IT Management Question  (Read 3132 times)


  • Magnum Stache
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IT Management Question
« on: May 09, 2014, 03:29:42 PM »
Question for IT / Software people that might have some management experience:

I currently work on a fairly complex government system as a contractor.  I've been asked to advise on what we can do with "400 developer hours" that we have coming.  Basically we are going to have a new person for 2.5 months.  There is no indication that the new developer would be retained beyond that time - it is actually "extra time" we have available from a contract with our bank.

I have no idea who this person or what his / her skill-set would be yet, but I have reservations about getting someone set up as a full-on developer for such a short time period - seems to me that by the time they learn our database / system and really start producing, it will be near the end of the contract.

We really can use the help - currently I'm one of 2 developers, which is not nearly enough.  What we really need is to expand the team long term, but this being a government operation, that's going to be very difficult to make happen, particularly with the two of us being contractors and not really having any authority over anything.

What would you want to do with an extra person for 2.5 months?  Come up with a smallish, self contained project?  Have them  work primarily on testing or documentation or something?  Something else all together?


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Re: IT Management Question
« Reply #1 on: May 09, 2014, 03:48:49 PM »
Having been a PM on projects where management thinks they speed things up by throwing resources at it late in the game, i don't see any benefit from having the developer on for 2.5 months.  It will take time away from both you and your teammate to ramp them up and whatever output you get from them will probably have to be peer reviewed (or more).  Having them do testing or documentation without knowing the system will also take time from you to ramp them up and answer their questions. 

Either find them something completely self contained that will not take from your time, have them put on another part of the project where you won't have to help them or just give the hours back.  I know the company won't want to do that because that is money they don't get but try to do what is best for the project. 


  • Magnum Stache
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Re: IT Management Question
« Reply #2 on: May 09, 2014, 04:12:13 PM »
Thanks for the feed back!  I am currently annoyed to no end with the decision making process in place here - it is like they tried to come up with a framework for making bad decisions.

What do you think about pushing for a subversion / source control expert?

A complicating problem in all of this is that we are just finishing the migration of our main system from a mainframe to a .NET web app.  The powers that be made the decision to abandon our 20+ year relationship with the data center that we were at, even though everyone who had anything to do with IT recommended staying there, and the new data center operates more like a server-leasing operation.  I.E. they create the servers for you, but provide no real support of any kind.

I should note that an outside vendor has been handling the new system - what I am working on is all kinds of stuff that the outside vendor can't or won't get to in a timely fashion.  We cobbled together a subversion set up for source control, but I just know this could be so much better if we had someone who really knew the product set it up for us (our old data center had a group of people who's job it was to deal with this - new one, not so much).

I'm thinking that might be a good self-contained project - have this guy go off, fix up our source control set up, then we'll use it going forward? 

It might be a tough sell, because it is not visible to the business users who are increasingly in charge of everything, but maybe it is a good thing to have this new guy work on (pretty sure s/he is coming no matter what we try and do).

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Re: IT Management Question
« Reply #3 on: May 09, 2014, 04:20:27 PM »
"Nine women, one month"!!!

I would definitely isolate this person to an infrastructure or maintenance project.  Perhaps there are a series of ongoing tasks that take development time away from team? That could free the dedicated developers up to refactor or otherwise kill technical debt.


  • Pencil Stache
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Re: IT Management Question
« Reply #4 on: May 09, 2014, 04:41:13 PM »
First of all, get a copy of the Mythical Man Month written by Frederick Brooks. It is 50 years old, but it prooves that our profession is still repeating the same mistakes that our parents or grand-parents were doing.

The main issue isn't the 400 hours you get, it is the x hours you loose by managing the other person. In my experience it takes you at least a month and the other person six months to become fully productive. You have a third, so you are basically wasting over 400 hours. Make sure you waste them efficiently, so it doesn't waste a lot of your time. Testing, documentation, research so unds like a good plan for you, though not the other side.

Obviously, it would be better if you could convince those responsible of a long term contract, maybe at 20 hours a week instead of 40.

The biggest issue of so source control is again not setting things up. That is a matter of a few weeks if you start clueless and have to migrate an average project. The difficult part is providing solutions when you encounter a problem, like having screwed up in a merge conflict and neeeding someone to clean up the mess.

Subversion is relatively outdated. I've talked about SVN at conferences almost a decade ago. Today I would look at Git or Mercurial...


  • Magnum Stache
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Re: IT Management Question
« Reply #5 on: May 09, 2014, 05:29:19 PM »
I think I have a copy of The Mythical Man Month somewhere - if I can find it, it will find its way to a certain manager's desk on Monday - actually I could probably use 3 or 4 copies.


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Re: IT Management Question
« Reply #6 on: May 09, 2014, 08:41:31 PM »
We had problems like this quite often - what to do with left over money. It depends upon the level of the person concerned. There are always a number of administrative tasks that need doing that can be given to a general dogsbody - checking documentation... Or more specialized tasks like the subversion one you suggest - or producing a testing suite for future changes. In your situation I would like someone to test the interfaces between your stuff and the outsourced stuff.